Over the past two weeks, confirmed cases of coronavirus in Chicago have risen to an average of more than 500 cases per day—a level not seen in the city since the virus's initial surge back in May. The rise echoes a concerning national trend, with cases growing by 5 percent or more in 38 states, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
During a press conference this morning, Mayor Lightfoot stopped short of imposing any new restrictions or rolling back any current allowances, but she did make the severity of Chicago's current situation clear, stating that "We are in the second surge." Lightfoot warned that if there is not a "dramatic turnaround" in the numbers soon, she will reimpose some Phase 3 restrictions, which could force certain types of businesses to reduce capacity again or close entirely.
"Let me clear, I don't want to go there," Lightfoot said about reinstating Phase 3 guidelines and restrictions. "Particularly for those in small businesses who have already suffered through a very difficult year, this would be a tragedy for many of them. But I've gotta do what is right to protect us from this virus."
Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady advised Chicagoans to help reduce the spread by always wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently and limiting the number of people allowed into their homes. Both Lightfoot and Dr. Arwady reiterated a statistic that two out of three Chicagoans diagnosed with COVID-19 know the person who likely infected them and three out of four of those close interactions took place at their home.
"Please, do not invite anyone over to your house or apartment. This is not the time for non-essential gatherings, period," Dr. Arwady warned.
When asked if the city's decision to increase bar and restaurant capacity in early October was playing a part in the uptick in cases, Lightfoot and Dr. Arwady claimed that the city's data did not show that "places that we regulate as a city" are major sources of spread. Lightfoot also defended the decision to allow Chicago Public Schools to resume some in-person learning for pre-K and special needs students, arguing that remote learning is not effective for all students and that Chicago's private and charter schools where students have returned in person have not proved to be major sources of spread.
With no vaccine on the horizon and more people heading indoors as the weather gets colder, the mayor's press conference served as a warning that conditions could get much worse if cases continue to rise in Chicago. Instead of issuing new guidelines and restrictions, Mayor Lightfoot appealed to the city's citizens with a familiar demand for an increase in caution and changes in their behavior, in the name of protecting themselves and others.
"Now is the time for each of us to step up, and I call upon our fellow Chicagoans to be with us, everyone, in this fight," Mayor Lightfoot stated. "This is our moment to make the difference in what our future is going to look like."
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